Mental health encompasses a wide range of conditions that affect an individual’s behavior, emotions, and thought processes. Psychiatric drugs are often used to treat common mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder and depression, but there are other options available. These options may be ideal for those who are concerned about possible side effects of medications. In addition, if you have co-occurring disorders, such as substance use and bipolar disorders, you may prefer other treatment options. Here are a few things you can discuss and explore with your mental health treatment provider if you’re interested in treating mental health without medication.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

For many individuals, psychotherapy is effective for managing symptoms and improving quality of life. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on modifying dysfunctional or harmful thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to boost happiness.

The premise of this treatment is that perceptions and thoughts can powerfully influence behavior. CBT not only identifies harmful thoughts, but works to discover whether those thoughts are an accurate representation of reality. If they are not, tools are deployed to help challenge distorted cognitions and overcome them.

CBT can be helpful in identifying the root cause of the mental health disorder. It’s easily adaptable for an inpatient or outpatient setting. If this therapy is of interest to you, here are some answers to frequently asked questions about CBT.

Coping Mechanisms

Identifying healthy coping mechanisms is a great way to improve your outlook when managing mental health symptoms. Not all mechanisms work for everyone, so don’t be discouraged if it takes some time for you to find methods that work well for you. Here are a few common techniques professionals recommend for coping with mental health:

Deep Breathing

This technique may seem overly simple, but it is a very effective method for increasing oxygen to the brain and encouraging a sense of calm and well-being. For best results, breathe in for a count of five seconds, then wait three seconds before slowly letting the breath out over seven seconds.

Radical Acceptance

This approach involves accepting something you can’t control completely. For example, if a hurricane is heading your way, radical acceptance requires you to accept that you can do nothing to stop the hurricane; however, there are things you can do to prepare for its arrival. Similarly, when you have a mental health condition, you cannot change that fact. But once you fully accept your condition, you can take steps to cope with it.

Emotion Awareness

If you refuse to accept the emotions you feel as part of your mental health disorder, it will be much more difficult for you to handle them. Emotion awareness gives you permission to not only be aware of what you’re feeling, but embrace the feeling for a moment or two. Once you have allowed yourself to feel the emotion, you can work to calm yourself through meditation, calming music or anything else that helps you feel tranquil.

For many people, these techniques are easy to implement and can be quickly incorporated into daily routines.

Lifestyle Changes

Some mental health conditions can be vastly improved with lifestyle changes. Adopting a healthier lifestyle can improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

  • Increase your consumption of healthy foods, including vegetables, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (including tuna and salmon), and antioxidant-rich fruits.
  • Get adequate sleep each night to reduce symptoms.
  • Exercise daily, even if you can only squeeze in a 15-minute walk.
  • Find a new hobby or activity that you enjoy.

These lifestyle changes, in combination with therapeutic interventions that can identify healthy coping mechanisms, are all effective habits to improve mental health. Importantly, remember that no treatment plan is universally effective; what works for someone else may not work for you.

Author's Bio: 

Desiree Patton is a Media Correspondent for Pyramid Healthcare, a provider of treatment for adults and teens suffering from addiction or substance abuse, as well as individuals with mental health disorders.